A no-growth boom will follow 2012 global crash
There is a global economic boom coming, but unfortunately, that boom comes only after a systemic collapse of the global economy, markets and capitalism — a collapse that may well eliminate billions of people from the planet.
Shocking? Cruel? Brutal? Yes.
But folks, that is the coded message in many recent warnings from environmental economists who finally realize that nothing will wake up the public.
Nothing but a catastrophic system failure.
Only then, a path to reform, recovery, a new boom.
But wait, you ask: If the consequences are worse than an asteroid slamming into Earth, why don’t we just plan ahead?
Avoid the Black Swan?
Why wait for some “creative destruction” to wipe out capitalism, reduce the global population to 5 billion?
Because our human genes are not good at planning ahead for catastrophes.
Our brains are designed for fight-or-flight. Otherwise we procrastinate. We respond best when our backs are against the wall.
Then we rally the troops, go to war, so to speak. Until we reach that point, we focus on everyday stuff, like jobs, the kids, short-term buy-sells and ideological stuff like today’s anti-science, anti-intellectual political rhetoric. Free-market capitalism. Don’t tread on me. Stuff like that keeps us in denial about the future.
No, we don’t plan, don’t act until a crisis.
Not till the asteroid is about to hit. Even then, we pray for divine intervention to rescue us. Or a Churchill to emerge, take charge of the impossible challenge, get people energized and focused on a common cause. Then we’ll charge ahead, solve the problem.
Until then, our brains can only think short-term. Massive denial of global catastrophe dead ahead And yet, the facts about the coming catastrophe are so obvious. Just apply a little grade-school math and economic common sense: Our planet’s natural resources can reasonably support about 5 billion people.
That’s a fact. Another: Today we have 7 billion. That’s a problem, 2 billion too many.
We’re consuming commodities and natural resources at a rate of 1.5 Earths, according to estimates by the Global Footprint Network of scientists and economists.
Flash forward: This scenario gets scarier than a horror film, very fast. United Nations demographers warn the Earth’s population will reach 10 billion in just one generation, around 2050.
That’s two times the 5 billion the Earth can reasonably support. But the equation gets even scarier: Those 10 billion people will demand lifestyle improvements. That increases their consumption of scarce resources by 300% per person.
Bottom line: 10 billion people will be consuming the equivalent of six Earths.
Very bad news. “You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century,” writes Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist and author of “Hot, Flat, Crowded,” “when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural-resource/population redlines all at once?” Friedman quotes Paul Gilding, the veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, who described this moment in a new book called “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.” “The only answer can be denial,” says Gilding. “When you are surrounded by something so big that requires you to change everything about the way you think and see the world, then denial is the natural response. But the longer we wait, the bigger the response required.” Forget global warming — it’s too late Gilding’s “Great Disruption” is an eye-opener. But have no illusions that his or any book will be the wake-up call that will force us to plan ahead for a catastrophe.
A former chief executive of Greenpeace, he admits screaming for 30 years to get the public’s attention. He now confesses that his efforts had little impact. Why? The world is too deep in denial. So, finally, he gave up. Nothing was working: “We tried. We failed.” Today his message is simple and blunt: “It’s time to stop worrying about climate change. Instead we need to brace for impact.” Yes, an economic asteroid is closing fast.
What will trigger “The Crash” he sees coming? “If you grow an economy or any system up against its limits, it then stops growing and either changes form or breaks down … As our system hits its limits, the following pressures will combine, in varied and unpredictable ways, to trigger a system breakdown and a major economic crisis (or series of smaller crises) that will see us slide into a sustained economic downturn and a global emergency lasting decades.” As Gilding sees it, the coming crash is “not a doom and gloom prediction, but an inevitable physical reality.” And yet, paradoxically, while the faint-hearted panic, this “perfect storm” also signals sell and buy opportunities for savvy investors.
“A series of ecological, social and economic shocks driven by climate change, particularly melting polar regions, extreme weather events…changes to agricultural output…severe economic stresses…deep concern [among] the public and the global elites…government intervention… a sense of global crisis.”
“Increasing demand and lower agricultural output driven by climate change …sustained increases in food prices…economic and geopolitical instability and tension…developing countries blaming the West for causing climate change.”
“A deeply degraded global ecosystem will further reduce the capacity of key ecosystem services, water, fisheries and agricultural land … impact food and water supply … political stability … global security.”
“Rapid increases in oil prices as peak oil is breached. …The trend will be clear… enormous, system-wide economic and political pressure…great conflict.”
“For example, a serious global terrorist attack wiping out a major city…or a pandemic shutting down global travel…shocks upon shocks upon shocks.”
“As this unfolds, our deeply intertwined and complex global financial market, prone to panic, driven by fear and uncertainty, will suddenly wake up to the long-term implications of all of this…Perhaps driven by a series of major corporate collapses or national economic crises, they will then simply re-price risk in global share markets…This will lead to a dramatic drop in global share markets and a tightening of capital supply.” Markets and economies will crash. Oddly, in all this, Gilding is an eternal optimist. He believes that mankind will follow this “Great Disruption” with a period of great cooperation where all nations of the world will come together to save the planet.
What’s unspoken, however, is how this great disruption will stop population from growing to 10 billion. And even more significantly: How the crash will scale Earth’s existing population of 7 billion back to a sustainable 5 billion.
Yet, that must happen to make the “new equation” work. Unfortunately, what’s unspoken will probably include new global wars, pandemics, famines, starvation and other cataclysmic events, all before the boom. 20 investment opportunities before and after the collapse
A couple of years ago Gilding and Jorgen Randers of Norway detailed 14 market-oriented ways to “get serious about combating climate gas emissions by 50% over a 5-year long focused plan.” Their “One Degree War Plan” would “keep global warming below plus-one degree Centigrade over pre-industrial levels.” These policies may not fit with today’s traditional free-market capitalists and conservative politicians. But after the coming crash, after a great realignment of the economic, political and environmental systems of the world, Gilding and Randers see these as essential policies for a new sustained global economy. You can also see these as investment opportunities for entrepreneurs and financiers even today, certainly all forward-thinkers who are planning ahead.
Yes, while the rest of the world is trapped in denial and fear of a coming crash, some adventurous few will plan ahead for the boom coming after the world community downsizes to create a new, sustainable lifestyle.
Here’s how Gilding and Randers describe these key sectors:
1.Forests: Cut deforestation and other logging by 50%.
2.Coal: Close 1,000 dirty coal power plants within 5 years.
3.Electricity: Ration electricity, and rapidly drive new efficiency.
4.Carbon Capture Storage: Retrofit 1,000 coal power plants with Carbon Capture Storage.
5.Wind/solar: Erect a wind turbine or solar plant in every town.
6.Deserts. Create huge wind and solar farms in suitable deserts.
7.Waste: Let no waste go to waste; recycle and reuse by-products.
8.Autos: Ration use of dirty cars to cut transport emissions by 50%.
9.Biofulels: Prepare for biofuels power stations using CCS technology.
10.Travel: Strand half of the world’s aircraft.
11.Methane: Capture or burn methane from agriculture and landfills.
12.Food: Move society away from diets of climate-unfriendly protein.
13.Farming: New methods reduce gas emissions, maximize soil carbon. Add these 13 key sectors to the six listed earlier, you get 19. Then, No. 20, their final policy idea for the coming mega-boom era is cultural as well as economic: “Launch a government- and community-led shop-less-live-more campaign.”
A new world focusing less on unlimited consumption, more on personal happiness. These policies may not be fashionable in today’s world.
But in the post-crash New World, economic theory will change, because growth economics no longer works and the survival of civilization demands a fundamental rethinking of economic theory. So these 20 tips will be gold mines for savvy investors, entrepreneurs and financiers. All investors searching for long-term opportunities in today’s world of uncertainty and extreme volatility should read Gilding’s “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.” Whether liberal or conservative, right- or left-brainer, agree or not, this book will engage you, get you thinking very differently about how to protect the future for you and your family. And fortunately, Gilding’s such an upbeat optimist about global challenges you’ll enjoy being drawn into his new mindset.